Thrift Megastores: the Wave of the Future?

May 10, 2009 at 6:34 am | Posted in News | 1 Comment

goodwill price tagGoodwill Industries opened a 12,000-square-foot superstore last week in Norwich, Connecticut.

On opening day, according to local newspaper The Day, “there were lines of people extending down the sidewalk, the parking lot was packed and eager shoppers couldn’t wait to get in….

“It may not be accurate to call this newest retailing venture a thrift shop. The Goodwill organization prefers to call it a retail super store and uses terms like ‘gently used,’ or ‘the best of the best’ in pre-owned clothing, books, furniture and the like.” The store “also sells new items, including new mattresses, socks, sandals and the like,” but at low Goodwillish prices.

All used clothing “is inspected before it goes onto racks, any furniture must be sanitized, used books are only put out if they’re in good condition, and housewares and toys all must be in good working order….

“As shoppers grabbed shopping carts on a recent weekday and the store’s numerous cashiers rang up continuous sales, rows and rows of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing attracted first-time browsers and longtime customers. Typical prices are $4.99 for women’s pants — and some appear brand new. There are sweatshirts selling for $3.99, men’s blazers — some sporting impressive labels — selling for $9.99 and up, and men’s full suits retailing for $12.99 and up….

“The store is the retailing anchor at the newly opened Briar Hill Plaza shopping center on Route 82 diagonally across from the Norwich Wal-Mart complex.” Take that, Wal-Mart.

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  1. This isn’t exactly new. When I was growing up in South Bend, Indiana, my father was instrumental in helping the local St. Vincent de Paul Society open up a huge thrift shop. I worked there for several summers, so I saw the operation from the inside. As in the store you mention, clothes were often cleaned, electric appliances were tested, and everything was looked over before it went onto the sales floor. The prices were a lot cheaper than Goodwill, however, even given the era (1970s and 80s). The employees were paid better than minimum wage and had health insurance and paid sick days. The store moved into bigger quarters—an old Target, I believe—a couple of years ago, and last I heard, it was still going strong.

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